A Zen Story
Mid Week Musings #203
Hakuin, also called Hakuin Ekaku, original name Iwajirō, (born Jan. 19, 1686, Hara, Suruga province, Japan—died Jan. 18, 1769, Hara), was a priest, writer, and artist who helped revive Rinzai Zen Buddhism in Japan.
Hakuin joined the Rinzai Zen sect in about 1700. He subsequently became an itinerant monk during which time he first experienced enlightenment, and returned in 1716 to the Shōin Temple in his native Hara, which remained his base until his death.
This is a well-known Hakuin story.
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin. “I am a samurai,” the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar.”
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued:
“So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”
As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked:
“Here open the gates of hell!”
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.
Heaven and hell is not a place to arrive at or be, it is a state of mind.
If you are blissful and calm here open the gates of paradise for you.
If you are angry, practicing sinful acts here opens the gates of hell for you
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